>I Agree With Nick

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Having waded through the mass of reaction, both on and offline, to the first Leader’s Debate there is a clear consensus. There is no doubt that Nick Clegg was the winner. As with his Shadow Chancellor before him,  Clegg was consistently better over the course of the 90 minute debate without landing a clear knock out punch. If  people requited a Clegg soundbite they got it with ‘the more they argue, they more they sound the same’ in reference to both his opponents, or the perfectly timed ‘I’ll tell you how to pay for it’ directed at a rattled Cameron. The real soundbite that has propelled the Lib Dems was provided frequently by Brown: ‘I agree with Nick’ was the most uttered phrase during the whole debate. While i’m sure the continued repetition of the phrase will haunt Brown if he watches the debate back, he was only saying what others where thinking. I won’t dwell on polls as only the one on May 6th matters, but every result showed public support for Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats.
The other two will continue to try and dismiss Clegg’s success  as an angry public getting behind an outsider, but after the Cable demolition job in ‘Ask the Chancellors’ this is more than beginners luck. For the first time people have been allowed to fully hear and scrutinise Liberal Democrat policy, and more and more they agree with what we are saying. People like the idea of being £700 richer, people like the idea of smaller class sizes, people like the idea that the environment is more than a fashion statement. They really like that we know how we would pay for it all.

9.9 million people watched the debate last night. For all the naysaying that went before it this was not just a contrived publicity stunt. People were exposed to some genuine debate and discussion of ideas. I imagine that the Sky News audience will be significantly smaller next week, but that will be due to the choice of channel as opposed to anything else. It is fair to say that  after last night the Leaders’ Debates will now become a permanent fixture of UK elections, and I believe those elections will be all the better for it.

There is little doubt that Clegg will find the second debate harder. He now has the weight of expectation on him, and foreign affairs was always going to be difficult for a third party leader. It will be easy for Brown to play the experience card that neither Clegg or Cameron have, even if that experience involves an illegal war and a disastrous war. However, people expect a statesman when discussing foreign policy and Clegg’s European background and knowledge should help him maintain the Prime Ministerial appearance he is beginning to cultivate. While he could successfully play the outsider in domestic affairs, foreign affairs will show us what Nick Clegg is really made of. I personally think it will also reveal Cameron to be increasingly out of his depth. Exciting times lay ahead for the Liberal Democrats.

If you agree with Nick, join the Facebook group!

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